In this edition of Montreal Canadiens news and rumors, popular forward Tyler Toffoli has been traded to the Calgary Flames, defenceman Ben Chiarot is out for one week with a lower-body injury, new interim head coach Martin St. Louis has the team playing with renewed passion and purpose, and the Habs have returned Cayden Primeau to the Laval Rocket in the American Hockey League (AHL) after acquiring goaltender Andrew Hammond from the Minnesota Wild.
Plus, Canadiens’ prospects Sean Farrell and Frederik Dichow are off to strong at the Olympic Games in Beijing, and general manager Kent Hughes hopes to find a role for Vincent Lecavalier in the organization.
Toffoli Headed to Calgary
Hughes and Executive Vice President Jeff Gorton made their first big splash in the trade market on Monday afternoon, sending Toffoli to the Calgary Flames in exchange for forward Tyler Pitlick, prospect Emil Heineman as well as a first-round pick and a fifth-round pick. Heineman, a winger, was chosen in the second round of the 2020 draft by the Florida Panthers. He was sent to Calgary in the Sam Bennett trade.
The move, the first of several expected to be made by the Habs before the Trade Deadline, signals that the rebuild is on in Montreal. They now have two first-round picks for this summer’s NHL Entry Draft which will be held at the Bell Centre, and twelve selections overall. A fun fact: Pitlick is a cousin of Rem and Rhett Pitlick, both members of the organization.
Toffoli was very well-liked in Montreal and will be missed. He had a great season last year and came close to winning a second Stanley Cup. He fully embraced playing in the market and was proud to be a Hab. He was also a great mentor for his frequent linemates, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield as well as Jake Evans.
Chiarot Out One Week
With five weeks to go before the Trade Deadline, the Canadiens announced on Sunday that Chiarot is out at least a week after suffering a lower-body injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets this weekend.
Not ideal timing of course, but it appears that the Habs are being cautious with their top trade asset to ensure that they can get maximum value for him in a potential deal. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reported that as many as twelve teams are interested in acquiring the defender and it wouldn’t be surprising if action started heating up around him in the coming days so that a trade can get done.
Habs Acquire Hammond, Return Primeau to Laval
Hughes addressed Montreal’s lack of goaltending depth over the weekend by picking up Hammond in exchange for forward Brandon Baddock.
Related: Canadiens Trade Toffoli to Flames
The move allows the team to send Primeau, who has struggled mightily with the big club, to the Rocket where he can regain his confidence and build his game back up. For his part, Hammond has played exclusively in the AHL this season with the Iowa Wild. He posted a 6-2-3 record in 11 games. He’s also played in 56 career games over five seasons in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche.
St. Louis Making an Impact Already
The Canadiens sent shockwaves across the NHL last week when they named St. Louis interim head coach after relieving Dominique Ducharme of his duties.
Despite not having any prior head coaching experience in the league, the Hall of Famer has rejuvenated his players and they have bought into what he’s selling. Even though St. Louis is still looking for his first win as an NHL bench boss, the Habs are playing an entertaining brand of hockey that will translate to some victories eventually.
He’s also begun building a new culture inside the locker room based on accountability and hard work that will hopefully become the team’s identity for years to come.
Strong Olympic Start for Montreal Prospects
Two of the Habs’ top prospects have performed well for their respective countries at the Olympic Games.
Farrell, a fourth-round pick of the Canadiens in 2020, leads the tournament in scoring for Team USA with six points in three games after putting up a hat trick and five points in one game against China. The 20-year-old continues to impress at every level. He has 19 points in 17 games in the NCAA with Harvard University. Farrell mentioned in Beijing that he intends to return to Harvard next season before turning pro.
Meanwhile, Danish goaltender Frederik Dichow, a fifth-round pick of the Canadiens in 2019, made 31 saves on 32 shots in his Olympic debut against ROC in round-robin action.
Hughes Wants to Find a Role for Lecavalier
Rumors have been swirling for a few days that Lecavalier is on the verge of joining the Canadiens’ front office alongside Hughes, his former agent. While nothing is official yet, the GM hopes to find a role for the former Tampa Bay Lightning star in the organization.
“If I have anything so say about it, yeah,” Hughes said when asked about that possibility. “I’ve had conversations with him. To me, trying to identify from Vinnie what would you like to do? He’s installed in Tampa for the time being. He’s got a young family, he’s not going to pack up and move. It’s not fair for his family to do that at this point. So the question is how can we involve him in a way that interests him and benefits us? And if we can do that we’re going to do it.” (from ‘Canadiens GM Kent Hughes hopes to find job for Vincent Lecavalier,’ Montreal Gazette, 12/02/2022).
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
With just two games on the schedule this week, St. Louis will benefit from some extra practice time to get to know his players better and continue working on how he wants them to play. Plus, all eyes will be on Hughes and Gorton to see if they pull off more trades or make additions to the front office.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.